Although summer is winding down, here in Southern California the heat can still cause problems for our furry friends. It is a common misconception that the pads of a dog’s feet don’t feel pain or heat. Au contraire! The pads are very sensitive and important organs. When we walk our dogs on hot pavement the pads heat up and blistering can occur under the pad. This is especially common when walking on blacktops. If the dog walks on these hot surfaces frequently, the blister forming under the pad will separate the outer pad from the underlying tissues and one day part of the pad may rip off. These cases often take a long time to heal with multiple bandage changes. In general, if the pavement is too hot for you to walk on barefoot, it’s probably too hot for your dog. Grass is a MUCH safer alternative.
Another interesting point about dog feet is that they not only provide cushioning during walking, but they can dissipate a very small amount of heat from the body. There are specialized sweat glands around the pads of the feet and on the nose. Compare these two small areas with the 4 million pores all over the human body and you’ll realize that dogs heat up MUCH quicker than we do. Because of this, dogs heavily rely on panting to cool themselves and it takes longer for them to cool than it takes us. It’s very important to protect your dog from overheating by not going on long walks in the heat of the day, always having water available and not over exerting him or her. Next time you go out with Fido, try to run, hike and play outside in the cooler morning or evening and stay away from the middle of the day. By doing this you are not only protecting the foot pads from injury, but also protecting from overheating and deadly heat stroke.
Danielle Sawyer, DVM
Emergency and Critical Care Resident
ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospital – Los Angeles